Going off Script

Sometimes you can go fishing and everything just works out perfectly; the fishing is easy and it just all works. I love those kind of days…. Saturday was an example of just the opposite!

I’d promised Rhianna that we’d go fishing. We had the bait, the tackle, the time and some ok weather. Rain was forecast later in the day, but we’d be finished before it arrived so nothing to worry about.

We jumped in the car and paid a trip to a fishing shop I’d never visited before in Crediton, before heading over to Harpers Lakes near Tiverton Parkway. What with the detour to the shop it took quite a while to get to the lakes and when we did we found it pretty busy, but worst of all the parking places were full. Undaunted we tried the nearby car park only to find that the ticket machine was only taking cash and the card payment wasn’t working – we didn’t have enough cash which posed a problem…. All the road nearby is double yellows so the only other option would be a very long walk or to park illegally. By now I had a slight nagging feeling of frustration tinged with paranoia that maybe things weren’t going our way. With that at the back of my mind I chose not to tempt fate by parking without a ticket or on the double yellow lines and decided to head off to another series of ponds – Newcourt Barton. We’ve fished there numerous times before and knew we could count on the carp there to put a smile on our faces. Just needed to get there now…

We left Harpers Lakes to find the North Devon Link road and M5 Junction 27 solid with bank holiday traffic. Not a problem, we’ll head across country around the back roads. This did the trick and whilst it did take a while, we got to our destination at Newcourt Barton ponds without further mishap or any lengthy waits in traffic.

Several other people had also had the same idea and the top ponds we usually fish were busy so we opted to fish the bottom pond. We set up a pole, our chairs, landing net and all the tackle, food, bait etc. I plumbed the murky depths to find the swim we’d chosen was no more the 8 inches deep. At this point before I could even utter any expletives, the first drops of rain fell. We hastily stuck up the umbrella and huddled underneath as the rain steadily grew more intense.

We ate our food whilst watching the rain and weighed up the options – brave the rain, cart all the tackle to a different swim and try to get our fishing mojo back or alternatively to throw the bait in, pack up and scarper back to the car.

We chose the latter option and drove home – all without so much as baiting a hook.



Easter at Luccombes Coarse Fishery

In an effort to break out away from the Easter Eggs and risk of overdosing on chocolate, I dragged the family down to Luccombes Ponds this Easter for a quick fishing fix.

Being a bank holiday weekend, the place was understandably busy and we had to settle for whatever swims were available. I selected a spot next to a reed bed that had quite a bit of fish activity visible, and set up a float rod as well as a fly rod with the intention of switching between the two as the need arouse. The pond was quite shallow, and the spot I fished next to the reeds was only 2 – 3 foot deep. Despite being able to fish only one or two rod lengths out, the proximity of the reed bed would mean I’d have to bully any fish from the start.

I started off with the float rod using luncheon meat hook bait fished on the bottom. Bites were pretty much instant and it wasn’t long before I had the first fish on the bank. This turned out to be a modest sized bream. After this the carp moved in and a steady procession of carp around the 2lb mark came out.

Loose fed dog biscuits with fly fished pellet fly tempted one carp but apart from this solitary fish the others for the day all fell to float fished spam. Looking around at the other anglers on the other ponds and it seemed that floating dog biscuits or bread were the baits of choice which probably accounted for the wariness of the fish when presented with dog biscuits on the surface.

2017-04-17 Luccombes 5273

Amongst the array of carp, I caught a couple of small skimmers and a fish that looked a lot like a large rudd but could possibly have been a hybrid of some description. All in all we had a nice couple of hours with no shortage of fish and fairly decent weather. Certainly beats being at work.




Wild and Windy on the Canal

A brief encounter with Dominic Garnett who was manning his DG Fishing stand at the West of England Game Fair on Saturday inspired me to the need to get out and go fishing; and soon. Talking to Dominic brought to mind the distinct lack of fishing I’ve actually done since Christmas – one solitary trip in a little over two and a half months!!

To rectify this terrible state of affairs, Sunday morning saw me up and in the car before first light, bleary eyed and already regretting the decision. I reached my selected fishing destination, the Grand Western Canal at Halberton for first light; and stepping out of the car to peer over the Greenway bridge, I wasn’t filled with optimism. Every angler will appreciate the joy of looking over the side of a bridge on a sunny day to gaze into the water below, with the hope and expectation that goes with this simple activity. In this case, there wasn’t much to be seen in the half light of dawn, mainly due to the waves and chocolate coloured water, making any hope of seeing anything below the surface an impossibility.

2017-03-19 Tiverton Canal 6789

I retreated to the car to seek shelter from the cold and wind with the intention of heading for home. A short internal mental battle with myself ensued, which to set a long story short resulted in me deciding rather stubbornly that as I’d gone to the effort of getting here I might as well wet a line at least.

The wind, and there was plenty of it, was straight down the canal, but was at least from my left hand side, which suited my right hand casting style. As the light grew it also became apparent that the water clarity was better than I’d first thought – murky, but not completely coloured up. If I put the fly right past a fish, it might actually have a chance of noticing it.

Brightly coloured flies were the order of the day and I duly worked my way along the bank, undisturbed by any other canal users due to the early hours and pretty uninviting weather I guess. I can’t begin to pretend that my heart was really in it, and after an hour and a half of misery I’d pretty much decided to have one last cast. As is often the case in these situations the “one last cast” turned into another half dozen or so which resulted in an oh so welcome fish, in the form of a small jack pike taken right under the rod tip. I didn’t see the fish take, partly due to the water clarity or lack of, but more likely due to my lack of attention…

Either way, a fish is a fish and I went home happy. Happy to be out of the wind…. Looking forward to the warm, still summers days on the canal when I can stalk the Rudd amongst the lilypads in gin clear water, with my only concern being whether it’s time to apply more suncream or not. Roll on summer!

2017-03-19 Tiverton Canal 6793



Starting the year fly fishing for pike

The first trip of the year saw me down at the Grand Western Canal near Tiverton at dawn, armed with a fly rod and all ready to chase the first pike of the year.

It was overcast and still, as well as unseasonably mild which I secretly hoped would mean the fish would be feeding. I decided on a #7 rod and floating line, along with a fast sinking leader and wire trace teamed with a 6 inch long ‘roach’ type fly. This particular fly is one of my favourites and has caught plenty of fish before which always helps inspire confidence. This confidence seemed well placed as I had a feisty jack pike attack the fly under the rod tip, and again on the following cast – neither times resulting in a hook up sadly. After that the little fellow couldn’t be tempted to have another go.

I fished my way away from the car until I’d pretty much resigned myself to a blank and decided to head back. A switch of fly to a similar sized yet slightly different coloured fly for the return seemed in order, and whilst I only had a cast or two at a few likely spots on the way back to the car I managed to tempt out two small, yet very welcome pike. Both fish followed the fly until the last moment and could be seen taking the fly in the clear water. Exciting stuff indeed! A good start to the year me thinks..

Too cold for Pike Fishing

We’ve had a very mild autumn until now and it was only on Guy Fawkes night that the temperature here in the South West has really dropped to somewhere approaching what we’d usually expect for this time of year. Bonfire night in Devon was clear and cold, and the following morning was frosty and bitterly cold to match. I was awake early and down at the river Culm for around first light hoping to grab a couple of hours fly fishing for pike.

Trampling through the frosty fields to get to the river I was feeling really optimistic and hopeful. It only took two casts for that early enthusiasm to wane… The rod rings were iced up by the 2nd cast which meant stopping to break the ice build up off. Numb fingers also required warming before continuing casting. This cycle carried on for a while with me only able to get a couple of casts before needing to stop to de-ice the rod rings and warm my fingers.

The cold and a distinct lack of fishy activity quickly dampened my desire to be out in the countryside at this hour of the morning, and with the onset of numb toes I decided to head for the warmth of the car before the first hour had played out. Maybe it was the sudden temperature drop after such a long period of mild weather that had put the fish off feeding, or maybe I just didn’t put in the time – either way I didn’t feel bad to be heading for home early on this occasion. There’s always next time in any case.

Foam Beetles for Carp

I managed to pop out for a couple of hours on Monday in the hope of trying for pike on the fly rod but was thwarted by events in the end. The access to the river where I’d hoped to fish was blocked by farmers sorting livestock on the only access path to the fields that led to the river, so I switched to plan B.

Plan B involved a short drive to Newcourt Barton lakes to fly fish for the carp there. Being a weekday I had the place to myself and wasted no time in introducing a few dog biscuits to entice the carp into feeding on the surface. This didn’t take long and it wasn’t too difficult to connect with my first fish. After this the fish became a lot more cagey and steadfastly ignored the imitation dog biscuit fly whilst happily taking all the free offerings.

The fish did seem to be feeding on the surface on the other side of the pond amongst all the floating leaves being shed by the autumn trees so I moved round to investigate. It wasn’t apparent what the fish were feeding on, but I switched to a small black foam beetle fly and was immediately into a fish. A few more followed after that – nothing what you might call large, but fun all the same and satisfying to catch them on a ‘proper’ fly rather than a bait imitation.

Still looking forward to kicking off my pike fly fishing for this year, but it’ll have to wait by the looks of things.


Blackberry Eating Carp

A quick trip to New Court Barton Lakes found me searching through my fly box trying to find something to replicate blackberries when fly fishing.

I fished the 2nd lake, and hadn’t been fishing for long before I realised why I was having no interest on any of my flies – the fish were all tight against the island opposite picking blackberries off the overhanging branches where they touched the water.

No amount of natural flies or even dog biscuit floaters could entice them to look at anything else.

I found a black blob fly in my box, that with a liberal addition of gink floatant just about hung at the surface. The cast to the island wasn’t very far and it was relatively easy to get nice and tight into the overhanging brambles.

The first fish to encounter the blob took it with no hesitation and the ensuing battle finished when I netted a lovely 6lb carp after a very spirited fight.

Full of confidence I now endeavoured to get the fly back in tight under the brambles. Confidence didn’t go that well when paired with dense overhanging brambles and my fly was swiftly swallowed by the undergrowth. This was a bit of a problem as it was the only thing in the fly box that even vaguely resembled a blackberry and no other substitutes seemed to fit the bill – certainly from the fishes point of view. A couple of foam beetles and daddies were inspected if cast near the brambles, but the carp always turned away at the last moment. Did they suspect foul play or was it just because they didn’t look like floating berries? Whatever the reason, that first carp was the only fish of the afternoon.

Oh well, thats fishing – success followed by elation shortly followed by hope then disappointment. Nothing unusual there then.

Rudd and Carp at Kia Ora

Last time I fished Exeter & District’s, Kia Ora lakes with Rhianna, she had 60 rudd from the smaller pond in not that many more minutes. This time we started off on the smaller pond again targeting the hoards of rudd before moving onto the larger pond to try our luck for the carp.

We pole fished using maggots which on the smaller pond, without exception were hit on the drop by ravenous rudd. Even cubes of luncheon meat were savaged mercilessly. Not a chance of getting a bait near the bottom. This is the perfect kind of fishing for my daughters but after a while I managed to persuade her that it would be better if she watched me catch carp from the bigger pond just behind us.

We moved to a nice looking swim opposite a wooded island that I’d be able to reach with a long pole. A few decent sized carp were cruising around basking in the sunshine, but on this venue, surface fishing is banned so we plumbed the depth tight up against the island opposite. The water in front of us was fairly consistently shallow at only about 2 – 3 foot deep, so as there was no obvious deeper spots we decided to fish tight against the overhanging vegetation agains the island opposite. With my pole at nearly full reach, this was going to be a little more challenging.

I loose fed maggot and luncheon meat before going straight for the meat bait on the hook. Bites were easy to come by but connecting with anything was a very different proposition. It wasn’t long before Rhianna’s interest was waining and I knew me time was fast running out unless I could hook something..

The first two fish I hooked felt a good size but were off across the lake and into snags quicker than I could say “oooh, I’ve got one..”. Putting on the pressure only resulted in the hooks pulling out. I stepped up the rig and went for a beefier hook length in the hope of being able to stop any other fish I hooked a bit easier, and also increased hook size in an effort to hopefully get a better hook hold. This seemed to work and we swiftly landed 2 nice fish, the bigger of which went to nearly 7lb. I’m sure we could of caught more but with a small child moaning about being bored it seemed a good time to call it a day. We did chat to another angler leaving at the same time as ourselves to learn that he’d caught around a dozen carp up to 12lb. Nice to be sat by the water in the sunshine.


Small Boat Fishing at Exmouth

The benefit of owning your own boat was apparent this week, when I was invited out on a friend’s boat. A mooring in Exmouth marina means it is ready to go whenever time and weather is favourable. No need to wait for the tide. A few hours after work one evening this week proved the case in point and we managed to snatch a couple of hours mackerel fishing before dark.

The wind was reasonably blustery and conditions weren’t perfect but we persevered and drifted for mackerel just off the headland at sandy bay. The fish weren’t present in numbers but we steadily caught on every drift and ended the evening with nearly 40 fish. The larger fish being destined for mackerel pate and the smaller as pike baits for later this winter.

2016-08-02 Exmouth Mackerel blog


Carp Bonanza on the Fly Rod

This weekend saw some of the years warmest weather so far and it seemed rude to ignore the opportunity to sneak out for an hour or two with the fly rod. I headed out to Newcourt Barton ponds and took my eldest daughter with me to act as official photographer. As it turned out on the day, it wasn’t just her taking the photos.

We’ve fished Newcourt Barton ponds a few times in the past and had some nice fish from here on the fly rod. There are 4 ponds, mainly stocked with carp, although the first pond when you enter is supposedly a tench and skimmer pond. Given the great weather we were surprised to only find one other angler on fishing – always nice as e’d pretty much have the pick of the swims. Rhianna and I parked up near the 2nd pond when we arrived and could see a couple of nice sized carp cruising the surface as we set up the rod. The trip was all about catching fish, rather than worrying about catching them on ‘natural’ flies only, so we went straight to the dog biscuit imitation fly. In this instance I used one I’d tied myself so I wasn’t initially that confident it would do the trick.

We lose fed a half dozen dog biscuits at a time and eventually the fish started taking the free offerings with confidence. When I introduced my fly it wasn’t long before it was taken without hesitation.  I was using my #7 rod and a floating line with a 7lb tippet. The rather scruffy, self tied fly was tied on a meaty size 10 barbless carp hook so on the snag free pond I had very little to worry about. Even so the fish wasn’t to be beaten that easily and really put up a scrap. The end result being a beautifully conditioned carp of around 7lb.

2016-07-16 Newcourt Barton 4893

After the commotion of this first fish, we struggled to get the fish to fed again and It was only by casting right against the overhanging vegetation on the island in the pond that I managed to tempt another fish – this time smaller at around the 4lb mark. No more fish were forthcoming after this so we switched to one of the other ponds.

It was only a matter of seconds after throwing in a half dozen lose fed offerings in our new swim before the place seemed to come alive with fish. we lose fed a little more and the fish were really going for it, often competing with each other for the dog biscuits. Needless to say, the fish came fast and furious from this point onwards. Over the course of the next hour we had another 10 fish – mostly around the 4 – 5lb mark. Rhianna caught 2 fish which was a major milestone for her as she usually uses a pole. This time, she had her first go with a fishing rod, cast out herself, hooked and played the fish all by herself with my role limited to landing and unhooking the fish. Definitely a proud daddy moment! The smile on her face said it all. Think she would of stayed there all night catching fish but my arm was aching from the action so we called it a day.

What a great session though! Caught lots of fish on my self tied fly. Rhianna caught her first fish all by herself on a fly rod – and a nice fish at that. What better way is there to spend a summer afternoon?